Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.12.11
Stanstead, Quebec


The gift of the mad guy

Dear Santa,

I have been good all year. April was a bit dodgy, I'll admit, and there are two weeks in August that I can't quite account for but, all things being equal, I think we can agree that the scale tips well towards "good."

How are the reindeer? Honestly, I don't know why I ask that because I can't imagine any possible answers other than "cantankerous" and "smelly." Oddly, I imagine these same responses also apply to the question, "How is Mrs. Claus?"

I guess I'm stalling because I'm not sure how to put it, so, please, indulge me for a bit longer. Let me tell you about my wife's maracas.

For years, whenever I'd ask my wife what she wanted for her birthday, she'd reply, "Maracas." I always dismissed her request with a chuckle. Maracas, after all, aren't exactly the go-to gift for spouses. "Maracas are forever." "Say it with maracas." Not likely. She was joking, right?

Still, the requests continued. And so, about five years ago, I decided that maybe, just maybe maracas really are a girl's best friend.

Years later, those maracas sit on our bedroom dresser, virtually unrattled. I live with a mix of anticipation and dread waiting for those maracas to someday come into play.

My point is this: Just because people ask for something doesn't mean they actually want it.

More precisely, Santa, you don't have to give everyone everything they ask for.

I realize that I'm talking about your job, this borderline-maniacal indulgence of seasonal whims. But I think I can prove my point by looking at the non-maraca history of gifts in our house.

One year, our son desperately wanted Beyblades, which are exactly like Battling Tops from my youth except meaner, noisier, and more costly -- kind of like federal MPs. Unlike Battling Tops, you had to buy each Beyblade toy separately, plus the Battle Dome, which was essentially an inverted plastic dollar-store chip bowl -- unreliable and easily busted -- again, kind of like federal MPs.

Three months after Christmas, the Beyblades disappeared into the closet and were soon forgotten. Parts: lost. Dome: done. Beyblades: bye-bye.

Granted, Beyblades were a fad, and fads have preyed on kids as far back as the Great Pan Flute Falderal of 1915. But sometimes you can't blame it on the fad. If you're Milli Vanilli, you can blame it on the rain, but that's another story from another era.

A few years back, our eldest daughter asked for a punching bag. She really wanted something she could beat the tar out of -- she had some issues at the time. Well, we got her a punching bag, and now it hangs unused in our basement, a lifeless, lumpy deadweight taking up space - kind of like... well, you get the idea.

I could go on, but I believe the national statistics on breadmaker usage sufficiently prove my point.

Culturally, though, we have it ingrained in us that the more stuff the better. Consequently, we end up with Black Friday's now infamous Walmart waffle-maker riot, which sounds exactly like something I would make up. Sadly, no.

And I guarantee that those waffle-makers will be used twice, three times max, because once you clean those bumpy grills a few times, pancakes start looking like a pretty good option.

No one ever dreams of owning a waffle-maker. Santa, if someone says to you, "I would like a waffle-maker for Christmas," I'd dismiss it as one of those things people say but don't really mean, like, "The doctor will see you shortly," or "Canada will honour Kyoto," or "The helicopter ride was part of a search-and-rescue mission."

Santa, I don't want to take the fun out of Christmas. Nonsense and frivolity are essential to a happy life and Ottawa politics. I just want to remind you that many items on Christmas wish lists are irrational, impractical, and poorly thought out (this to a man who lives with elves and flies reindeer...)

I guess ultimately what I'm trying to say is this:

Please don't bring my wife bongos.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at